Last week on mapthegap.co.uk we gave you a few words of advice on body language etiquette when travelling. This week, we are going to give you some advice on something that we think is equally important - table manners.
It’s great to try new dishes and cuisines while travelling, from the delicious, to the disgusting and the down-right strange, but there are a few little dos and don’ts you should remember at the table.
1) In Asian countries, particularly China or Japan, never stick your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of food, as this is how a bowl of rice is offered to the dead, with incense sticks sticking out the top.
And while we’re on the subject of chopsticks, don’t pass food to someone from them, don’t pretend to play the drums with them, don’t wave them around and definitely don’t stick them up your nose! This is very bad manners and is sure to offend people.
2) According to Russian tradition, you are never supposed to place an empty vodka bottle on the table, it must always be placed on the floor, otherwise it’s bad luck. And don’t mix vodka either - here it’s meant to be drunk straight up.
3) In India and the Middle East, when eating with your hands, make sure you use only the right hand. The left one is considered unclean as this is the one you are supposed to use in toilet related activities.
4) Do slurp your soups and noodles in Japan. In the UK it’s considered rude to slurp your food, but in Japan it’s completely acceptable and even shows your appreciation for the meal.
5) In Korea, do spit your bones (such as those from a fish) and inedible parts of your meal onto the floor. It might seem disgusting to us, but it’s perfectly normal there.
6) Japan has so many different eating and drinking customs that it’s hard to keep up. But, here’s an important one for you to remember – Don’t refill your own drink; always wait for someone to do it for you. If you do this yourself, you may be inadvertently admitting to everyone that you’re an alcoholic!
7) In Mexico, if you catch someone’s eye while eating, even in a restaurant you should say buen provecho- it’s similar to the French phrase bon apetit and is like telling someone to enjoy their meal.
8) In Hong Kong and Ethiopia everyone shares their food; it is seen as very strange if you just have one dish to yourself. In Hong Kong you may take food from the communal dishes and put it onto your own, but in Ethiopia everyone eats from the same giant plate.
9) In the Philippines do wait to be asked before you’re seated, wait until you are served before serving yourself and wait until you are told you can start eating.
10) In Portugal don’t ask for seasoning or condiments if they are not on the table already. This is seen as rude to the chef if you think his/her dish needs something added.
So, if you’re able to remember these little pieces of advice, you’ll be sure to get through a meal no problem and avoid offending the locals. Be sure to look in your guidebook for table manners that are specific to the destinations you are going to visit.